When Hemingway said that Switzerland is, "Much more up and down than sideways, and is all stuck over with large brown hotels built on the cuckoo clock style of architecture", he actually neatly summarised what many people hope to encounter when visiting the country. The words of the great writer and traveller also perfectly describe Lauterbrunnen, which is not only an excellent base for explorations of the Jungfrau region, but additionally has a wonderful setting and atmosphere that together proved to be a superb antidote to my everyday life in a big city.
Admittedly, there is little in the way of actual sights in the village, except for a charming little church and a small museum that houses locally themed exhibits, but that does not mean that there is not much to see. It is actually more pleasant than might reasonably be expected of such a spot, partially due to the presence of several of the aforementioned chalet style places to stay that feature the distinctive broad overhanging roofs that are so typical of the Alps, some of which also have exuberant displays of flowers bedecking the balconies. However, the real aesthetic treat comes in the form of the views of the sheer cliffs that rise steeply on two sides, behind which immense mountains are clearly visible. Whether simply walking along the main street during the day or eating hearty rösti on the terrace of the Hotel Oberland as the sun set, I was always in awe of the incredible backdrop, which proved to be a brilliant appetiser to the astonishing beauty of the area.
Meanwhile, even more spectacular scenes are available out in the valley of the same name, which is quite believably reputed to be one of the most picturesque in the whole of Europe. The lush green fields, which are dotted with lovely traditional farmhouses and huge boulders that have fallen from high above, are a fantastic counterpoint to the starker surrounding landscapes, and are also ideal terrain for easy but extremely rewarding strolls.
The best destination for such a walk through the blissful countryside is the Trümmelbach, which is the most impressive of the numerous waterfalls in the vicinity. For thousands of years, it has vigorously carved a passage through the rock, and the constant noisy passage of thousands of gallons of churning white water every second has formed all kinds of unbelievable curvaceous shapes. Visiting the series of caves that the process has created is an utterly breathtaking thing to do, and well worth paying the admission fee and getting a little wet to experience. In comparison to such evident natural power, the somewhat more leisurely Staubbach, which prettily tumbles almost 1,000 feet much closer to the settlement, seems almost whimsical in appearance.